Fort to ‘benefit more than many’ from homes project

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Fort William will benefit ‘more than many other places’ from the Holyrood Government’s affordable housing programme, according to Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP.

Mr Stewart spoke to the Lochaber Times on Tuesday during a two-day visit to the Highlands, when he toured the development of 12 new flats for affordable rent being built by Highland Council on the site of a former whisky shop in the town’s High Street.

A subsidy of £57,000 per unit was awarded to the MacBrayne Apartments project, which is due to be completed in August.

Mr Stewart said: ‘This is a cracking development and Fort William should be glad to have it. Whoever moves into these homes will be immensely pleased.

‘The views are spectacular and you can already see the quality of the finish of the building and that’s hats off to architects and builders and to Highland Council for having faith to build on what is a very tight site.’

Asked how aware Scottish Government was of what many say is an affordable housing crisis in Fort William, which is being exacerbated by the runaway boom in tourism, Mr Stewart replied: ‘I’ve always said the affordable housing programme should be one for all of Scotland and Fort William is going to benefit more than many other places.

‘I’m visiting four sites in Fort William today. The government recognises there is an expansion going on here in Fort William and that is why we are investing so heavily.

‘And I am pleased that beyond the affordable housing programme, we’ve equipped Highland Council with the Evergreen Infrastructure Fund which  means we can open up sites which we thought previously were not viable.’

Local councillor Allan Henderson said he was pleased to see the MacBrayne Apartments taking shape on what had been considered a difficult site.

‘This project will definitely enhance this end of the High Street,’ he added.

The minister also viewed ongoing work at the Blar Mhor site on the outskirts of the town where a major infrastructure project, which attracted £9million from the Scottish Government, will see work start later this year on a first phase involving 117 new affordable homes.

Mr Stewart then visited the former school site at Lochyside to see progress being made on a joint project between The Highland Council, Lochaber Housing Association and The Highland Housing Alliance to build 60 houses and flats of which 50 will be for affordable rent, four for shared equity and six for mid-market rent.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Mr Stewart visited council headquarters in Inverness to discuss future housing development opportunities across the Highlands.

Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, said she was particularly pleased the minister’s visit had focused on Fort William as meeting the high housing needs is part of wider work going
on to bring economic expansion, including private investment, to the town.